WARNING: Netflix’s ‘Young Royals’ Season 1 spoilers below.
How do you successfully a story about the royal family and rich teenagers from the Nordic region so warm, relatable and down-to-earth? That’s a question answered by Netflix’s latest teen drama, ‘Young Royals.’
Teenage series exploring a group of characters enjoying their highs and overcoming their lows certainly isn’t a brand-new concept — these TV shows have gone as far as defining generations all over the world for decades. However, not all of those who end up airing, as popular as they might become over time, manage to tell a realistic tale and create an everlasting connection with their audience. An overall poor knowledge or misunderstanding of what young people feel, think and experience has led to several productions reducing the teenage experience to over-sexualization, downright nonsensical decision-making and a wrongful depiction of the consequences of trauma. Netflix’s latest hit ‘Young Royals’ successfully defies the standard and paints a picture that balances quality storytelling and enthralling entertainment.
The tale told in ‘Young Royals’ is far from following a common scenery: the story follows Prince Wilhelm of Sweden (Edvin Ryding), whose life will change once he’s forced into boarding school in an attempt by his family to mold him into their expectations. During the six-episode season, the audience witnesses Wilhelm walking a path of self-discovery after getting romantically involved with Simon (Omar Rudberg), an openly gay Venezuelan student that will make him question everything he’s been told about his present and his future.
The first season of the series, released on July 1st, has found a massive cult following online — amassing over a million likes on Netflix’s latest Instagram post about the beloved couple and achieving a 99% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes. This success is no coincidence, and it’s the result of a thoroughly prepared recipe.
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Although we have seen a rise in romantic queer stories in the media for the past few years — very rarely does the audience get to see a relationship as carefully crafted as this one. Six episodes have been enough to rightfully portray the feelings that come along with young love, and the nuances that are brought into the mix when it’s a same-gender relationship. The particularity of the series’ star being an actual prince doesn’t get in the way of realistically showcasing what queer relationships can entail: the fear, the self-doubt, the confusion, and the dilemma that arises when an inner need to please people is conflicted with one’s actual happiness.
While ‘Young Royals’ centers around Wilhelm and Simon’s love affair, the series does not rest solely on their main characters — instead, the rest of the ensemble does an equally brilliant job of portraying other teenage personalities that are far more complex and nuanced than the ones we usually see on teenage fiction. The presence of Felice, played by Nikita Uggla, feels like a breath of fresh air both inside the dynamics of the series and within a wider perspective of representation in teenage shows — Brown and Black girls are usually vilified in TV shows, especially when they have rich parents and they’re popular. Felice, however, is arguably the kindest and warmest character in the whole season. While the writers could’ve chosen to portray her in a negative light due to her own insecurities and the physical expectations enforced by her mother, she is consistently shown as a well-intentioned person who’s willing to go the extra mile to help others instead of filling the ‘mean girl’ trope.
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Story-wise, something that makes ‘Young Royals’ stand out from its peers is the simple yet rarely seen way in which it never feels like too many things are going on at the same time. It is very clear that heading into the season, creator Lisa Ambjörn and the all-female co-writers of the show had a comprehensive vision of where the story was headed and what they wanted to show for each character and each individual storyline. While teenage dramas have been too often guilty of attempting to pull as many tricks from the bag simply for the shock factor, this one manages to keep the audience’s attention with an elaborate development that allows for more profoundness and clarity. The warm feeling that the series exudes as it progresses and the emotional engagement it creates in the viewers is not a coincidence, but the result of careful storytelling.
Two factors unrelated to the plot that greatly add to the watching value of ‘Young Royals’ are the artistic vision and the acting. The cinematography provides another way to carry the story and also create a stronger sentimental engagement: the shots are not only stunning in a wider perspective, but also manage to convey complex feelings through smaller details — which becomes evident in every scene featuring Wilhelm and Simon, each time their physical interactions take the main focus. Additionally, the series has been lauded for casting actors that actually resemble their ages — and while for some it’s been their first-ever major role, it truly feels as though they were born to play their respective characters. A perfect example of these strengths playing out simultaneously can be found in the already-iconic football field scene, where Wilhelm finds himself under the influence and confessing his feelings to Simon — a visually engaging climactic moment with gripping dialogue that was largely improvised and shows the characters in their most vulnerable, transparent selves.
we didn’t HAVE to improvise, we GOT the opportunity to improvise by having a great script made by great people and great directors, i’m so thankful for that❤️ my favorite scene to shoot was the one on the football field :))
— Edvin Ryding (@RydingEdvin) July 15, 2021
Ultimately, ‘Young Royals’ is groundbreaking not for its concept but for its execution. While lots of viewers may have been brought in for the premise of a captivating and relatable same-gender relationship, what has finally made the series so successful is a combination of factors that add up to a piece in which young people can actually see themselves with. The many complexities of this story feel fledged out in a rather simple way, and it manages to find a place in the heart of each viewer by putting humanity in the forefront, as diverse as it might be.
Production on a second season of ‘Young Royals’ remains unconfirmed — but if its international success is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing more of these compelling character and absorbing storylines sooner than later.
Feature Image Credit: Netflix/Young Royals/Johan Paulin